Revelation 21:19
And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;
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(19) And the foundations of the wall . . .—Better, The foundations of the wall of the city (were) adorned with every precious stone. We may compare the adornment of the harlot (Revelation 17:4). Her robe was decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls. The Bride, the Lamb’s wife, has her beautiful ornaments, richer and rarer than those which adorned the world-mistress. The comparison reminds us, in a vivid and figurative way, of our Master’s often-repeated teaching. He that saveth his life, loseth it; he that loseth, saveth it; he that is content to pass by the dazzling attractions of the world, refusing splendour from the outstretched hand of Babylon, will win the true spiritual riches. There is no man that has turned away for Christ’s sake from the attractions of the world-spirit, that hath forsaken houses and lands for Christ’s sake and the gospel, but shall receive manifold more, &c. (Mark 10:28-31). The “jewels of right celestial worth” are part of the heritage of him who can nobly hold cheap the degrading hire of the world. (Comp. Isaiah 54:12.)

The foundation are various. There were in the foundation of the Church diversities of gifts and administrations, but the same Lord and the same spirit. In the heavenly city we have harmony, not monotony; variety, not sameness; unity, not uniformity. The stones are not arranged in the order of the high priest’s breastplate, but according to their various shades of colour, beginning from the foundation.

1.Jaspis, dark opaque green.

2.Sapphirus, Lapis-lazuli, opaque blue.

3.Chalcedon, an Emerald of a greenish hue.

4.Smaragdus, bright transparent green.

5.Sardonyx, white and red.

6.Sardius, bright red.

7.Chrysolite, our Topaz, bright yellow.

8.Beryl, bluish green.

9.Topazion, or Peridot, yellowish green.

10.Chrysoprasus, a darker shade of the same colour.

11.Hyacinthus, Sapphire, sky blue.

12.Amethystus, violet.

“Chrysoprasus is probably an error for Chrysopaston, a dark blue stone, studded with gold, by which substitution all the shades of blue will follow each other.” (See King, On Gems.)

With this blended harmony of colour the foundation-stones would encircle the heavenly city as with a rainbow belt. In the seer’s view the light of the heavenly city would shine with hues that betoken the advent of the morning. The varying tints would glow like pledges of a dayspring from on high.

“Along the tingling desert of the sky,

Beyond the circle of the conscious hills

Were laid in jasper-stone as clear as glass

The first foundations of that new, near Day,

Which should be builded out of heaven to God.

Jasper first, I said;

And second, sapphire; third, chalcedony;

The rest in order;-last, an amethyst.”

The foundation-stones are twelve. “As twelve, they indicate their numerical completeness (Revelation 7, 14); as shining with a common lustre, their unity; as stones of different hues, their manifoldness; as brilliant stones, the glorification of this earthly life through the light of Heaven” (Lange).

Revelation 21:19-20. And the foundations of the wall — That is, the lower parts of it; were garnished with all manner of precious stones — Were inlaid quite round, and beautified with a great variety of them; or were beautifully formed of them. The precious stones on the high-priest’s breast-plate of judgment were a proper emblem to express the happiness of God’s church in his presence, and in the blessing of his protection. The like ornaments on the foundation of the walls of this city may express the perfect glory and happiness of all the inhabitants of it, from the most glorious presence and protection of God. The colours of these are remarkably mixed. A jasper — A precious stone as hard as marble, and of various colours, as of green, yellow, red, violet; a sapphire — Of a sky-blue, speckled with gold; a chalcedony — Or carbuncle, an elegant gem, whose colour is deep red: with an admixture of scarlet; an emerald — Of a bright green; a sardonyx — Red, streaked with white; a sardius — Or sardine-stone, of a deep red; a chrysolite — Of a gold colour, as the word signifies; a beryl — Sea- green; a topaz — A mixture of green and yellow; a chrysoprasus — A beautiful mixture of gold and green; a jacinth — Of a red purple; an amethyst — A violet purple. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls — Each one being a pearl, entire and undivided, with all their beautiful pillars, arches, mouldings, and cornices. And the street was pure gold — And yet transparent, reflecting the light that shone upon it with a lustre equal to that which is the most highly polished.

21:9-21 God has various employments for his holy angels. Sometimes they sound the trumpet of Divine Providence, and warn a careless world; sometimes they discover things of a heavenly nature of the heirs of salvation. Those who would have clear views of heaven, must get as near to heaven as they can, on the mount of meditation and faith. The subject of the vision is the church of God in a perfect, triumphant state, shining in its lustre; glorious in relation to Christ; which shows that the happiness of heaven consists in intercourse with God, and in conformity to him. The change of emblems from a bride to a city, shows that we are only to take general ideas from this description. The wall is for security. Heaven is a safe state; those who are there, are separated and secured from all evils and enemies. This city is vast; here is room for all the people of God. The foundation of the wall; the promise and power of God, and the purchase of Christ, are the strong foundations of the safety and happiness of the church. These foundations are set forth by twelve sorts of precious stones, denoting the variety and excellence of the doctrines of the gospel, or of the graces of the Holy Spirit, or the personal excellences of the Lord Jesus Christ. Heaven has gates; there is a free admission to all that are sanctified; they shall not find themselves shut out. These gates were all of pearls. Christ is the Pearl of great price, and he is our Way to God. The street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. The saints in heaven tread gold under foot. The saints are there at rest, yet it is not a state of sleep and idleness; they have communion, not only with God, but with one another. All these glories but faintly represent heaven.And the foundations of the wall of the city - notes on Revelation 21:14.

Were garnished - Were adorned, or decorated. That is, the foundations were composed of precious stones, giving them this highly ornamented and brilliant appearance.

The first foundation - The first "row, layer, or course." notes on Revelation 21:14.

Was jasper - See the notes on Revelation 4:3.

The second, sapphire - This stone is not elsewhere mentioned in the New Testament. It is a precious stone, next in hardness to the diamond, usually of an azure or sky-blue color, but of various shades.

The third, a chalcedony - This word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The stone referred to is an uncrystallized translucent variety of quartz, having a whitish color, and of a luster nearly like wax. It is found covering the sides of cavities, and is a deposit from filtrated silicious waters. When it is arranged in "stripes," it constitutes "agate"; and if the stripes are horizontal, it is the "onyx." The modern "carnelian" is a variety of this. The carnelian is of a deep flesh red, or reddishwhite color. The name chalcedony is from "Chalcedon," a town in Asia Minor, opposite to Byzantium, or Constantinople, where this stone was probably first known (Webster's Dictionary).

The fourth, an emerald - See the notes on Revelation 4:3. The emerald is green.

19. And—so Syriac, Coptic, and Andreas. But A, B, and Vulgate omit. Compare Re 21:14 with this verse; also Isa 54:11.

all manner of precious stones—Contrast Re 18:12 as to the harlot, Babylon. These precious stones constituted the "foundations."

chalcedony—agate from Chalcedon: semi-opaque, sky-blue, with stripes of other colors [Alford].

And the foundations of the wall of the city, by which, we noted before, are to be understood the apostles, who, building upon the one foundation, Christ Jesus, by their holy doctrine laid the beginnings of the gospel churches, the first stones, (upon the Rock Christ), which were afterwards multiplied, others being builded upon them, till the whole church was perfected.

And the foundations of the wall of the city,.... Which were twelve; see Revelation 21:14 were garnished with all manner of precious stones: see Isaiah 54:11 not that there were all manner of precious stones in every foundation, but in them all there were, and each foundation had its stone peculiar to it, as follows; and which are not applicable to the persons of the apostles, who were not the foundations, but on them their names only were written: and besides, the order of them, as given in the Evangelists and Acts of the Apostles, is not certain, and always the same, to which these several stories may be adjusted; though they are doubtless comparable to them for their preciousness in the sight of God, and Christ, and all the saints; and for the brightness and purity of their doctrine and lives; and for their zeal in the cause of Christ; and for their solidity, and invincible courage and constancy: much less are these precious stones applicable to a set of ministers in the latter day, who are to be useful in the conversion of the Jews in the several parts of the world, where these stones are found, as Brightman thinks, but to Jesus Christ, the one and only foundation: and without entering into the particular virtues and excellencies of these stones, in general, they set forth the worth and preciousness of Christ, who is the pearl of great price; the pleasure and delight had in viewing his excellencies and perfections; his brightness, purity, and glory, and his firmness and durableness, as a foundation. There may be some allusion to the twelve stones in the breastplate of the high priest, on which the names of the tribes of Israel were written (i).

The first foundation was jasper; it was laid with a jasper stone, of which see Revelation 4:3. On this stone, in the breastplate, Benjamin's name was written.

The second, sapphire; its colour is azure, or sky blue; it is transparent, and exceeding hard. Schroder says there are very good ones found in the borders of Bohemia and Silesia; but those which are brought from Pegu are most valuable: on this stone Issachar's name was engraven.

The third, a chalcedony; it is of a misty grey colour, clouded with blue, yellow, or purple; the best is that which has a pale cast of blue; it is very much like the common agate; and the Hebrew word "cadcod", is rendered agate in Isaiah 54:12 though it is thought to answer to the carbuncle in the breastplate, on which was written the name of Levi. And Pliny (k) speaks of carbuncles, called "charcedonies", which R. Leo Mutinensis says (l) had their name in memory of the city of Carthagena. There is a precious stone mentioned in the Targum of Jonathan, called "cadcodin", which answers to the diamond in the breastplate, on which Zabulon's name was written; and in the Jerusalem Targum it is called "cadcedana", and answers to the emerald, which had Judah's name on it, and seems to be put for "chalcodin" and "chalcedana", which agrees with the name of this stone.

The fourth, an emerald; of which see Revelation 4:3. The best of this sort are the eastern ones. Schroder says (m) they are found in Cyprus, Britain, and other places, but not so good as the rest. On this stone Judah's name was written.

(i) Vid. Targum Jon. & Jerus. in Exodus 28.17. Targum in Cant. v. 14. Shemot Rabba, sect. 38. fol. 138. 2. Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 2. fol. 178. 3.((k) Nat. Hist. l. 37. c. 7. (l) Shilte Hagibborim, fol. 45. 4. (m) Pharmacopoeia, l. 3. c. 5. p. 18.

And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;
19. garnished] The same word that is rendered “adorned” in Revelation 21:2. From the next sentence we are to understand that they are adorned by being constructed of these stones, not that stones are fastened on merely for ornament.

precious stones] See Isaiah 54:11-12; where however there is less detail than here, and what there is is not quite the same: a warning against expecting too minute a symbolism in the details. It is true that contemporary superstition ascribed mystical meanings and magical virtues to the various stones, and it is possible that the revelation made to St John was given in terms of these beliefs, which he and his readers may have known of or even have held. But though not a priori incredible, this is hardly likely: these superstitions had, it seems, much less hold on the popular mind in St John’s day than some centuries later: and at all times they were too vague and too variable to give us a key to the interpretation. There may be a definite meaning in each of the stones named, but the general meaning of the whole is all that we can be sure of. As St Hildebert says,

Quis chalcedon, quis jacinthus,

Norunt illi qui sunt intus.

The first foundation] The enumeration probably begins from one of the angles, and goes round the wall in order. It is useless to guess which Apostle’s name was on which stone, but it may be presumed that St Peter’s would be on the first. But in no two of the canonical lists of the Apostles are their names given in the same order; and, so far as there is any order among them, they are arranged in three groups of four, not, as is here required, in four groups of three.

jasper] Like the superstructure of the wall, Revelation 21:18. But it can hardly be meant, that the Church is built more solidly on to St Peter than to any other of the Twelve.

sapphire] The Greek and Hebrew words are (as with “jasper”) the same as the English. Yet it is almost certain that the stone so called in St John’s day was not our sapphire, but the far less precious lapis lazuli.

chalcedony] Apparently not the stone now so called, but one closely resembling the emerald.

Revelation 21:19. Κεκοσμημένοι, garnished) That is, built and adorned: for the very foundations are jewels; as the very gates are pearls. Concerning Adamant, see Hiller’s Syntagm. pp. 35, 36. An abbreviated expression, as in Vitruvius, l. x. c. 20, pluteum, turriculæ similitudine ornatum. Herodotus, lib. i. concerning Babylon, ἐκεκόσμητο δὲ ὠς οὐδὲν ἄλλο πόλισμα, where he calls the ditch, the wall, and the gates, the ornament of the city.

Verse 19. - And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. Omit "and" (cf. Isaiah 54:12, "All thy borders of pleasant stones"). Foundations (cf. ver. 14). The first foundation was jasper. Probably the diamond (see on Revelation 4:3). The second, sapphire. Thought to be the modern lapis lazuli. It was of a clear blue colour (Exodus 24:10), and very precious (Job 28:16). The third, a chalcedony. Not the modern stone of that name, but a green carbonate of copper, found in the mines of Chalcedon. It was, therefore, a kind of inferior emerald. The fourth, an emerald. The same as the modern stone (cf. Revelation 4:3). Revelation 21:19All manner of precious stones

Compare Isaiah 54;11, Isaiah 12:1-6; 1 Chronicles 29:2.

Sapphire (σάπφειρος)

Compare Isaiah 54:11; Ezekiel 1:26. Probably lapis lazuli. Our sapphire is supposed to be represented by the jacinth in Revelation 21:20. Pliny describes the σάπφειρος as opaque and sprinkled with specks of gold, and states that it came from Media (i.e. Persia and Bokhara) whence the supply is brought to this day. King ("Precious Stones and Gems," cited by Lee), says: "Before the true precious stones were introduced from India, the lapis lazuli held the highest place in the estimation of the primitive nations of Asia and Greece; in fact it was almost the only stone known to them having beauty of color to recommend it."

Chalcedony (χαλκηδών)

From Chalcedon, where the stone was found in the neighboring copper mines. It was probably an inferior species of emerald, as crystal of carbonate of copper, which is still popularly called "the copper emerald." Pliny describes it as small and brittle, changing its color when moved about, like the green feathers in the necks of peacocks and pigeons.


See on Revelation 4:3.

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